Becky’s openness and courage is nothing short of inspiring, as she opens up about her battle with depression over the years, her hope is for this piece to inspire and motivate others. We have seen a huge improvement in Becky’s physical and mental wellbeing since she started training with us, and we are proud to be part of her journey.
I am a wife, a mother, a nurse and for the past nine months a regular attendee of Burn It in the Park. It is important that I keep my identity. I also have suffered from severe and crippling depression since the birth of my son in my early thirties. I am now 45. I have had several episodes of being really unwell, on one occasion I had a lengthy hospital admission. I have taken numerous anti-depressants and have had a long period off all medication. However with the support of my family, friends and medical professionals I have always got well again.
Depression is a very complicated illness and it is very hard to explain how it actually feels. Some people refer to it as their black dog. To me it feels like a big black hole that is swallowing me up. It creeps up when you least expect it and can completely take over your life. It robs you of your personality. It is both physical and mental. Most people are not aware that I have this illness, even during an exacerbation. For the most part my life carries on as normal. I wear a mask. I go to work, I care for my son and I run our home. Nobody is aware of the huge effort it requires to even get out of bed in the morning and face the day. They don’t realise that even speak to people is extremely difficult. They can’t see the inner turmoil. They are unaware of the constant battle that is raging in my mind. Telling myself that I am pointless and that the world would be a much better place without me. Looking for small reasons to just to make it to the end of the day. Reminding myself that I have a son who needs his mum. Physically I feel hollow inside, empty. I am slower, tasks take longer, it takes much more effort to process thoughts. I worry that everybody else can see that I am as useless as I feel. Then there is the physical pain inside my chest. It overwhelms me to a point where I think that dying is the only way to make it stop, to escape the never ending torment. It’s not that I want to die as such, I just want peace and for the feelings to go away. At these times I just have to tell myself that this low is only temporary. These feelings will pass, and that I have family and friends who love me and are supporting me. I have beaten depression before and I will do it again!
There is a lot that I can do to help myself. I am well practiced! Keep to a routine, keep working and keep talking. Don’t bottle things up. As soon as I feel myself slipping seek medical help. Exercise plays a massive role, in both the prevention of a relapse, and getting myself well again during an acute episode. One of the advantages of Burn It is that it a set time. I have to factor the session into my day. If I have planned it, I am more likely to go. I also go with my friend, if were to cancel I would feel that I was letting her down. Often the hardest part is putting on my trainers and leaving the house. Once I am on my way that’s another small battle won. I am not going to pretend that the session is like a magic bullet and cures me. However for that hour I find a kind of peace. Being outdoors for the hour, no matter what the weather, is exhilarating. Feeling the wind and the rain on my face, hearing the birds singing. It is my time. This is just for me. My breathing space. I don’t have to worry about work, about school uniforms or any other mundane stresses.
My limbs ache with pent up agitation. The physical exercise relieves the tension and frustration from your body. Depression leaves you feeling sapped of energy and permanently exhausted. I am aware that whilst I am unwell I am much slower at running. It feels as though I am wading through water at times. The trick is to keep going. Keep coming to class. It doesn’t matter how slow I get. Being slow is much better than not moving at all! I can’t pretend that the depression doesn’t sometimes win. I have cancelled classes. I don’t berate myself too much. There is no point. I try and go for a long walk with my dog. I then make sure I book in for my next class. Try and keep some structure.
During the group I am free from the majority of my all consuming negative thoughts. I’m concentrating on my breathing, on not falling over or chatting with my friend. It’s like a temporary release. At times I have wanted to turn around and go home. I have had tears pouring down my face whilst running. I feel overwhelmed because there are so many people in the class. I quickly wipe the tears away and tell myself to carry on. Keeping going is another small victory. I am determined to win this battle and I will not become defined by my depression.
After the class I feel a different sort of tired than my usual exhaustion. A good type of tired if that makes sense. The endorphins flood my body and I feel relaxed and content. Proud that I fought and survived another day, and that the only way from here is up – to a fitter future! I set myself goals and challenges to ensure that I keep exercising. Small fitness stepping stones that I am still achieving. I am open and honest about how I feel with the instructor. He has given me amazing support. The physical changes to my body give me a boost too. They help improve my shattered confidence. I have lost over 4 stone in the past year. Burn It will not cure my depression. I am not suggesting it is a miracle cure. However, the classes and exercise are tools that will help me in the future to achieve a happy, physically fitter, and hopefully depression free, life.